Category: Press Materials, Press Release

Title: Georgetown and the Kennedy Center present the Let Freedom Ring Celebration

Date Published: November 26, 2019





Nolan Williams, Jr., Music Producer


In a musical tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, January 20, 2020 at 6 p.m.
in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall

(WASHINGTON)—The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Georgetown University celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with a free, ticketed musical tribute, the Let Freedom Ring Celebration. The annual program, part of the Center’s Millennium Stage free daily performance series, features ten-time Grammy Award® winner Chaka Khan and the Let Freedom Ring Choir led by Music Producer Nolan Williams, Jr., on Monday, January 20, 2020 at 6 p.m. in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.

Georgetown University will present the 18th annual John Thompson Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award to Sandra Jackson, executive director of House of Ruth.  For more than 40 years, House of Ruth has provided safe and stable housing to women and children and families in the D.C. area who have experienced homelessness and abuse. The award is given by Georgetown University to a local individual who exemplifies the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. For more information about this year’s awardee, please visit:

Free ticketsup to two per person—will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the entrance to the Hall of Nations, beginning at 4:30 p.m. on January 20. Overflow seating will be available at Millennium Stage North (near the Eisenhower Theater) for patrons to view a simulcast of the performance. This performance will be close-captioned and will also be live streamed on the Kennedy Center Facebook and YouTube pages, and on the website at


Chaka Khan is one of the world’s most gifted and celebrated music icons. A singer, songwriter, author, philanthropist, and activist, the ten-time Grammy Award® winner has influenced generations of music creators during her four decades as an artist. A native of Chicago, Khan began her singing career as part of the group Rufus. Her fiery vocals caught the attention of Stevie Wonder, who penned her first hit, “Tell Me Something Good.” In 1978, Khan blazed onto the music scene as a solo artist with the release of “I’m Every Woman” and, in 1984, she was catapulted to superstardom with the release of “I Feel For You.” Khan’s vocal intensity, soulfulness, and ability to work within different genres made artists take notice. She lent her voice and production skills to two of the biggest hits of 1986, Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love” and Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love.” She has since worked with a who’s who of artists, including Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Dizzy Gillespie, Mary J. Blige, George Benson, and the London Symphony Orchestra.

Khan has received a steady stream of accolades for both her artistry and philanthropy. Her awards include the Soul Train Legend Award, the BET Lifetime Achievement Award, the Grammy® Honors Award from the NARAS Chicago Chapter, and the World Music Award Lifetime Achievement Award. Previously nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame four times, she has been nominated again as a 2019 inductee candidate. She shared her life’s recollections in the autobiography Through the Fire, which is currently being adapted into a screenplay, and received an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Berklee College of Music in 2004. She has also performed in musical theater, debuting on London’s West End in Mama I Want to Sing in 1995; appearing in the Las Vegas production of Signed, Sealed, Delivered in 2002; and taking over the role of Sofia in Broadway’s adaptation of The Color Purple in 2008. Still at the height of her astounding vocal powers, Khan is creating new projects and earning new honors. Making history once again, she has been named Grand Marshal of the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade, making her not only the first African American Grand Marshal in the traditional New Year’s Day celebration’s 130-year history, but the first Grand Marshal to perform during the parade.

Despite her busy schedule, Khan has always made time to support and uplift her community. In 1999, inspired by her autistic nephew, Khan established the Chaka Khan Foundation to raise awareness, provide resources, and explore treatments for children with autism in underserved communities. In 2019, Khan launched a full collection of Chaka Khan inspired wigs and hair pieces for the everyday, modern female consumer, powered by Indique Hair and in partnership with her creative director turned manager George Robert Fuller. Khan’s latest body of work, Hello Happiness, was released on February 15th, 2019 under Diary Records/Island Records. She is looking forward to a celebration of a lifetime this year and beyond!



Sandra Jackson, executive director of the House of Ruth in Washington, D.C., is a social worker by training and at heart. Born and raised in D.C., Jackson has merged her background as a social worker, leader, and collaborator in her role as the executive director at House of Ruth. Since joining in 2013 as the director of operations, and becoming its executive director in 2016, Jackson has brought a new energy to the organization.  She leads from a place of healing, hope, and faith—her clients and staff are inspired by her example, her fierce advocacy, and her open, caring spirit.

Under Jackson’s leadership, the House of Ruth has increased its service to women and their children by 31 percent. Several programs started under her leadership are a ‘scattered site’ model, where women and children are given care and supportive services in their own apartments, which House of Ruth underwrites. As the women become more independent, they gradually take fiscal responsibility for their apartment—and they and their children do not have to move again. Jackson has helped increase staff training, create additional therapeutic support groups for women and children, and establish relationships with agencies across the city. One particular triumph is Jackson’s leadership and vision for the House of Ruth’s first capital campaign: the design, fundraising, and construction of a donor-funded developmental childcare center that will open on Pennsylvania Avenue in Ward 7 in 2020. As with all House of Ruth programs, Kidspace will serve women, children, and families who are survivors of homelessness and domestic violence.

Jackson has spent her entire career helping Washington, D.C.’s most vulnerable residents. Prior to joining House of Ruth, Jackson served as Administrator/Interim Deputy Director at an Administration within the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency; she previously also served as Regional Director for the D.C. region at Catholic Charities. She holds a Masters of Social Work from Howard University and a BA from George Washington University. She is married to Rev. Alonzo Jackson, Sr., who she met in middle school in Ward 7, and they are the proud parents of three children and three grandchildren.



As part of Georgetown University’s Let Freedom Ring initiative, this event builds on the success of the first joint program in January 2003, which featured the legendary Roberta Flack and attracted more than 5,000 patrons. The second, held in August of 2003, commemorated the 40th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and featured actor, civil rights leader, and 2004 Kennedy Center Honoree, Ossie Davis. Past concerts have featured Jessye Norman in 2004; Aaron Neville in 2005; Yolanda Adams in 2006 and in 2016; Brian McKnight in 2007; Denyce Graves in 2008; Kennedy Center Honoree Aretha Franklin in 2009; India.Arie in 2010; Patti LaBelle in 2011; Bobby McFerrin in 2012; Smokey Robinson in 2013; Dionne Warwick in 2014; Natalie Cole in 2015; Gladys Knight in 2017; Vanessa Williams in 2018; and Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell in 2019.


Established in 1789 by Archbishop John Carroll, Georgetown is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the United States. Located in Washington D.C., Doha, Qatar, and around the world, Georgetown University is a leading academic and research institution, offering a unique educational experience that prepares the next generation of global citizens to lead and make a difference in the world. For more information about Georgetown University, visit or connect with Georgetown on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. . Georgetown’s annual Let Freedom Ring initiative honors Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through a series of academic, artistic, and extracurricular programs that examine Dr. King’s life and work, and address the contemporary challenges our nation faces in order to fulfill his dream of justice and equality for all people. A link to the University’s full schedule of events this year is available at


Millennium Stage embodies the Kennedy Center mission and vision, inviting audiences to celebrate our collective cultural heritage in an inclusive, accessible way. Millennium Stage, now in its 23rd season, explores countless artistic styles and inspires the community to engage in the performing arts. Welcoming local, national, and international artists, the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage is the only U.S. institution that presents a free performance, 365 days a year at 6 p.m., streamed live on the internet.


The Centene Charitable Foundation is the Presenting Sponsor of Millennium Stage.

The Millennium Stage is brought to you by Target and The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation.

The Millennium Stage was created and underwritten by James A. Johnson and Maxine Isaacs to make the performing arts accessible to everyone in fulfillment of the Kennedy Center’s mission to its community and the nation.

Generous support is provided by The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates.

Additional support is provided by Kimberly Engel and Family-The Dennis and Judy Engel Charitable Foundation, The Gessner Family Foundation, The Irene Pollin Audience Development and Community Engagement Initiatives, The Isadore and Bertha Gudelsky Family Foundation, Inc., The Meredith Foundation, Dr. Deborah Rose and Dr. Jan A.J. Stolwijk, the U.S. Department of Education, and the Millennium Stage Endowment Fund.

The Millennium Stage Endowment Fund was made possible by James A. Johnson and Maxine Isaacs, Fannie Mae Foundation, the Kimsey Endowment, Gilbert and Jaylee Mead, Mortgage Bankers Association of America and other anonymous gifts to secure the future of the Millennium Stage.


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